The French Quarter
Although New Orleans is much more than the French Quarter, this is where many of the tourists stay and if you are short on time it's the best base, to be in the centre of the action.
Start by orientating yourself to this lovely area. The French Quarter is popular for its collection of great restaurants, cool hotels, and happening bars. This area is also easy to walk around and is well known for its beautiful architecture. It's the oldest neighbourhood in New Orleans and the buildings are a mix of Spanish, French, American and Creole styles.
Jackson Square is a historic park in the centre of the French Quarter. It's an area where local artists paint, play music and hang out. It's also home to one of the best restaurants in New Orleans - Muriel's. Check out the menu for tomorrow night and book in advance for the weekend.
While you are exploring this area be sure to head to its centrepiece; the stunning St. Louis Cathedral that holds religious services, cultural events, and even free concerts throughout the year.
The Presbytere is a great little museum in Jackson Square that houses the thought provoking Hurricane Katrina exhibition on one floor and the cheerful Mardi Gras exhibition on the other. Entrance is a very reasonable 6 dollars with discounts for concessions.
The Hurricane Katrina exhibition really touched me. The Coast Guard rescued over 34,000 people in New Orleans alone and nearly 2000 people died, many of dehydration and heat exhaustion waiting in their attics to be rescued. It really made you think about why in modern America, people were left for days with little food and water in the summer heat.
When you have finished in the Prebytere, stop for lunch in one of the many cafes and restaurants in this vibrant area. If you are still full after the hotel breakfast have a beignet - a donut covered in powdered sugar at Cafe Du Monde or Cafe Beignet. For something more substantial try a bowl of gumbo - a thick rich bowl of seafood or meat stew.
Royal Street is a lovely street in New Orleans known for it's antique shops, art galleries, and upmarket hotels like the Montelone Hotel. Every afternoon part of Royal Street is closed to traffic and various street performers and jazz musicians play. Spend time exploring, listing to the music in the street, browsing the stores and having a drink in one of the cafes or bars.
Back to the hotel for a relax by the pool and freshen up.
Directly in the French Quarter is Bourbon Street - New Orleans partying area. It's noisy, it's brash, it's colourful, it's a bit smelly, but it has to be done. We felt safe but if you are on your own or with kids beware of the odd drunk, strip clubs and dodgy characters. There are lots of clubs playing music, have a hurricane cocktail at Pat O'Briens for the true tourist experience.
When you've had enough of Bourbon Street, walk around the corner to Royal Street and stop off at Hotel Montelone for a Sazerac cocktail at the cool Carousel bar that rotates, then Mr B's Bistro, for quality Creole food in a smart but laid back atmosphere.
Take A Tour
There are many tour companies in New Orleans and we highly recommend Free Tours By Foot. This great little company has very informative and interesting tours. We took both the French Quarter tour and the Voodoo tour. You pay at the end with a tip and the tours are technically free.
The Voodoo tour was fascinating. The religion Voodoo and the magic hoodoo was brought over with African people that were shipped over as slaves. They had little to hold onto besides their religion and traditions. Voodoo, as it is portrayed in Hollywood films, is different to the religion that is practised then and still is today. It's a very spiritual religion and used for good mostly - the most popular potions used are love potions.
We managed to see where Marie Laveau, the Voodoo queen lived. You may have heard her name from the American Horror Story TV series - Coven. In reality, she was a very intelligent woman, a hairdresser to the rich of New Orleans, and she gained her power from listening to women gossip. She had a gift for showmanship and was also a Catholic. She was granted permission to complete her voodoo rituals behind St Louis cathedral, and would remove curses, read minds and be a spiritual guide.
Stop for lunch in the French Quarter. For authentic food local to the area try a Po Boy, a French bread sandwich or a muffaletta - a round sandwich with focaccia style bread filled with meats and olive salad. To find out more, and for some tasty photographs read my blog post on New Orleans iconic food and drink.
The Garden District
Take a tram, horse and cart or short taxi ride to The Garden District. A very historical residential neighbourhood, you’ll find yourself surrounded by grand trees, ivy, and of course plenty of gardens. Famous people who have homes here include Sandra Bullock, Nicolas Cage and Anne Rice who wrote 'Interview With A Vampire'. It's a pretty area to walk around and also houses the stunning Commander's Palace restaurant - with 25c martinis at lunchtime!
The National WWII Museum
If you want to take in a fantastic museum, the National Word War II museum is a further 15 minute walk from The Garden District, and well worth a visit.
Filled with original artifacts it covers the history of World War II from the start of the war, the world leaders, and the everyday men fighting for their country and the women supporting them. The Beyond All Boundaries 4D show narrated by Tom Hanks is highly recommended and moving and you can follow a real soldier through the war by his dog tag and find out what happened to him at the end. A place to make you think and an outstanding museum.
Take a stroll through Bourbon Street to see all human life. Cafe Beignet has a courtyard area where you can listen to jazz. New Orleans is widely regarded as the birthplace of Jazz, from the African American communities in the 19th century.
For true authentic jazz, walk to Frenchmen Street for jazz clubs, live music venues, and cool restaurants. This is the place where all the locals hang out. Stop at one of the jazz clubs for a drink. Places like The Spotted Cat, or Snug Harbour are highly recommended to gain a true feel of the city’s culture.
So this is my 48 hours in New Orleans. Once experienced never forgotten New Orleans is a place full of culture, heart, amazing music and fantastic food. Unmissable.
We stayed at Hotel Le Marais
We ate at Mr B's Bistro and Muriels
* We were given a pass to museums and attractions courtesy of New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau